A few days ago I found a short video on my facebook. It showed a dog that was rescued together with her pups. And I found myself touched and agitated while watching, because after this dog has been rescued big, round tears came out of her eyes. She truly was crying and I never saw or heard of this phenomenon before. Someone responded to this movie with another video. This one shows another dog that is lying on the grave of his caretaker. And this dog is intensely sobbing. And his lips are quivering like a child has its lower lip vibrating of sadness, before tears will come.
Are animals feeling joy and sadness? Are animals grieving because of ones shared love?
In our summer safari 2014 we entered the gate of Ngorongoro. There are allways Baboons welcoming us but this time a large group of elder Baboons and babies were present. One female was restless and got our attention. She was running up and down the road and in her hand she dragged her dead baby. She went sitting on a small wall, holding her baby. Other Baboons tried to get her baby from her as if they wanted to help her to let go, but she run away pushing them and screaming.
I also remember the famous story of Jane Goodall about a young Chimpanzee. He was old enough to feed himself. But after his mother died he could not recover emotionally and died shortly after her.
Also I remember the little Gorilla in Uganda, whom refused to leave the body of his mother and died.
In the research to grieving processes of animals, Elephants take a special place. They are observed in detail in the wild nature of Africa. There are many records of Elephants standing silently with the bodies of dead companions. And they tend to touch the trunk or bones in a special way, like they are embracing their mate.
A famous Elephant story is about Eleanor. Eleanor died in Kenya Samburu National Reserve. After she collapsed Grace, a matriarch from another family, used her tusks to get her on her feet again. Shortly after Eleanor collapsed again. Grace became very sad. She made sad noises, stayed with her although her own family moved on.
The next morning Eleanor died. Maui, a female from a third family touched the body with her trunk and tasted it. She hovered with one foot above the body of Eleanor and pulled the body with her trunk and left foot. It didn’t work and she started rocking over the body.
That following week many Elephants came to visit the body of Eleanor. And they stand silently around her.
Elephants from five different families came to visit and responded to her death. This shows their grieve goes beyond their own small group.
One Elephant from Tennessee got famous because of her eight year friendship with dog Bella.
They were seen all over the internet. Tarra and Bella were always together. When Bella got seriously ill and stayed inside the house for three weeks, Tarra was outside waiting for her all the time. And finally when Bella was missed, Tarra stopped eating and seemed depressed. When they found the body of Bella being attacked by Coyotes, they buried her and in the night after funeral Tarra made her lonely trip to the grave and put her footstep on the fresh sand. Other Elephants began to support Tarra and brought her special gifts like food.
Still Biologist Dirk Droulans is not convinced that Elephants do mourn. He thinks we are too much projecting our feelings and interpretations of our feelings on animals. Listen to Radio 1 http://www.radio1.be/programmas/nieuwe-feiten/rouwen-olifanten-echt